If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
ideas sometimes when you wait they come to you.

Preparation for starting with BAPP

Friday, 19 October 2012

Reflection, ethics, identity and a well cooked cake

Please read the whole post not just the parts that start with your module at the a start of the paragraph; it is useful to see things from different perspectives. See if what I write about another module resonates with the one you are on. For instance, if you are in Module Two, thoughts on Module One might add meaning to the experience of doing the module now you can reflect back on the module, and thoughts on Module Three might help you see where you want to go with what you are doing now.  Remember things always have new elements to them because you are changing and having more experiences so your interactions with things change.

This week Module One’s might be starting to move on to the reflection tasks. Here are some reflective thoughts following on from my last blog. Some people have written little biogs. instead of CV’s on their blogs. The idea of looking at your CV is to review what you have done!!! in terms of trying to see  patterns and themes to what your experience has been. I think writing a biog. is a good way to do this as well because it means you have to put a kind of narrative to the lists of your CV. As I said last week once you have done this it is interesting to think about what you valued and shouted about from your experience and what you take for granted and what you don’t mention. The way you construct these introductions to yourself also tell you about your own ethical values and principles. It is important to think about this from the beginning of the course although you will be talking about ethics specifically in module two, it is more than just administrative guidelines. You have presented some rule for conduct, what you think is appropriate already just by making your blogs.  Thinking about this leads us into the reflective section of Module One.  This is about finding ways to engage in reflective thought in terms of experiences. Dewey saw the action of the body as reflective thought – the mind full body. The actions you take like making a blog are the results of your reflective thoughts, but how can you be more conscious of these reflective thoughts? The habits you have are not just physical habits they are habits of thought also. (for instance if you have an injury and can’t walk the way you usually do, your habit of walking is interrupted but the issue of getting about becomes more than just finding a way to walk it changes your feelings and thoughts about things too.) As you are introduced to reflection in module one think about how it ties into what you have done so far in the course. We are hoping you will keep the tools and use of Reflection throughout the course and beyond. 

Module Two’s are looking at questions, ethics, themes and interests. This module is an introduction to research methods and that means it is about questioning your assumptions. So first question your assumption about what a question is, what is it for (to get to an answer, to get clarification, to know more about something?). I have been saying it is not useful to think of a question as something used to get to an answer. The very idea of questions should start you questioning your assumptions. Then as you realise you have made assumptions about thinks it is useful to know why you were drawn to that assumption this is where your personal principles (rules for how you understand life, community, society) have kicked in and they are fed by a sense that you are a good person and useful part of things right? So you are acting along a set of ethical principles but where did they come from? You weren’t born thinking questions led to answers or people should do surveys so other people can know more about them!!! As I wrote above your actions the way you understand things is not right or wrong but it is the result of some habits of body and thought where have they come from and what makes them right or wrong for you – this is ethics… and reflection… and inquiry… and sometimes quite disorientating which is why I am always saying have courage. Have courage to question yourself first.

Module Three’s I want to talk about analysis. You have gone out and collected data (or you are about to). Think of data like ingredients. Analysis of the data is doing something with it. You are a cook expert because of your life experiences and you have to make something with the ingredients. Do not just display the ingredients for us (in a pie chart!!!!). Anyone can go out and get some flour, sugar and eggs. You have to MAKE THE CAKE not give us the data (ingredients albeit in a beautiful display) and tell us to make it ourselves. Its like giving a birthday party and bring out Tesco’s bags of shopping with a candle on top!!! You are reading literature, reflecting on your life experience and remembering the situation of gathering the data in order to do something informed and interesting with it for us to try.  Then because really you are making a critical review and artefact not a cake you also have room to explain why you cooked it that way, what you thought you were doing by cooking it and what came out of the oven in the end. A lot of mixed metaphors. Do you get what I am saying???

And now for a new section of my post called – what is Adesola doing!!!! Well, I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about where some of my questions have taken me this week and see if they resonate with ideas you are having. I have been writing a paper with a friend  to present at Re:Generations in a couple of weeks. We are looking at the interconnectedness of dancer, environment and cultural discourse. Part of this looks at how cultural and personal identity (which manifests physically through belief systems see what I wrote about  Dewey) is affected by the aesthetic of particular dance techniques. How do we as choreographers encourage the dancer to move within the personal nuances of them Selves and also draw of established techniques that do not originate from the cultural indicators the dancer identifies with? This is particularly interesting to me in terms of Contemporary Dance which despite all the world influences at it’s inception (Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, and Katherine Dunham drawing on North African - Egyptian, Asian - Indian, African, Native American) seems to be Europeanised in terms of ownership. This is a question about ownership of modernity when one is of the western world but from non-european heritage. Contemporary work that comes from Non-European artists working in Europe seems to be distinct in that it is seen as work that is contemporary with a XXX influence as if XXX (Nigerian, Indian whatever) was fixed in the past and did not have a contemporary manifestation. This second point is the topic for another paper I am presenting in New Mexico at a Dance Conference (CORD) in November. I will be talking about the Jingle Dress, a piece I made and toured UK in 2010 which draws on Native American discourses particularly the Jingle Dress dance.  Here is the New Mexico blurb:

“The paper explores how Contemporary dance’s physicalised inquiry into meaning and principles of being impacts on embodied and cultural identity when it draws on traditional dances as a source. The research takes an ethnographic / case study approach drawing on the experience of creating the performance piece ‘The Jingle Dress’ a 45 minute work for 3-5 year old audiences. Ethnographic data is drawn from having been a part of traditional dances and ceremonies on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota for over 20 years, as well as the creative process of making the work- the Jingle Dress- and responses to the work. For the purposes of this presentation there will be a discussion of how dance shapes cultural identities and personal philosophy. As well as exploration as to whether within a contemporary context shared philosophical principles (such as Pragmatism) and shared embodied approaches (such as dance) can create communities of understanding across cultures or strips cultural identities.”

I will talk more about these two papers (questions) over the next few weeks. I have cited a number of books in the New Mexico paper, here are three of interest:

Johnson, E. P. (2003) Appropriating blackness : performance and the politics of authenticity, Durham, N.C. ; London: Duke University Press.
Pratt, S. L. (2002) Native pragmatism : rethinking the roots of American philosophy, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Nikolais, A. and Louis, M. (2005) The Nikolais/Louis dance technique : a philosophy and method of modern dance, New York ; London: Routledge.

Please comment on any of the above – what do you think?



  1. Adesola

    An interesting blog. I am connecting with your paper particularly in the area of 'environment and cultural discourse ' as it linked with a subject within my current professional inquiry.
    I'm discovering through the data I've collected for my inquiry on 'fusion' in two separate dance styles (of Latin and Middle Eastern) that it is indicating inevitably how it is likely to strip cultural identities and how the origins of a dance style or culture is taking on a new identity outside the country of origin. It is also highlighting confusion outside the country of origin.

    I understand what you are saying about the CAKE, I am looking at analysing my data and I must say mine has the ingredients of a rich fruit cake with exotic flavours. I'm working on the blending of different ingredients for a good result.

    Corinda Hall module 3

  2. Hi Adesola, thanks for this post. I am definitely 'assuming' rather than 'exploring' when it comes to questions, I think this is a technique hard to master. As a trained dancer you are often taught the journey 'a to b', yet dealing with all the bits in the middle you are not prepared for. I think we try to make ourselves seem more 'professional' by hiding the confusion, yet learning along the enquiry itself can be the greatest gain. I think when it comes to ethics, we all have are own that we have learnt along the way - but then are they actually our own? or just an influence? We can all form an opinion on something, but I can completely identify with you when you question the 'why?'. I cannot yet answer alot of your blogs with enough depth as of yet but am really enjoying the 'thoughtful direction' they imply...

  3. I really like the what is Adesola doing sections of these! Great to hear. Baking is a good analogy - as Simone says - reading about how to think through things may not have quick answers - but setting the tone for inquiry is also important. It terms of 'actions' - the best advice I have had is to unpack things - so put things into smaller sections in order to engage with them and to action particular thoughts.